October 30, 2019 / 5:46 AM / 14 days ago

Strasburg, Nationals send World Series to Game 7

EditorsNote: Edit 1: Adds “run” in 4th graf, changes Rendon quote, adds graf, tweaks 8th graf.

Oct 29, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros left fielder Michael Brantley (23) prior to game six of the 2019 World Series against the Washington Nationals at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

HOUSTON — In the end, after the controversy of the seventh inning resulted in Washington manager Dave Martinez watching the remainder of Game 6 of the World Series from the visiting clubhouse, the Nationals realized that all along their title hopes rested in the surest set of hands.

Stephen Strasburg pitched 8 1/3 brilliant innings while Anthony Rendon broke out with his bat as Washington forced a decisive Game 7 of the Fall Classic with a 7-2 victory over the Houston Astros on Tuesday.

The Nationals will send Game 1 starter and ace right-hander Max Scherzer to the mound Wednesday in the finale. He will be opposed by Astros right-hander Zack Greinke. Scherzer, a late scratch prior to Game 5 due to neck spasms, declared himself fit for Game 7 after throwing in the outfield on Tuesday afternoon.

Rendon, a National League Most Valuable Player candidate after leading the majors in RBIs during the regular season, batted .200 with just two RBIs over the first five games of the World Series. However, in Game 6, he went 3-for-4 with a home run and five RBIs.

The third baseman helped extend a historic run for road teams, who have won each of the first six games of the World Series, a first in postseason history.

Rendon was quick to praise Strasburg for extending the Nationals’ season.

“Oh man, Stras was doing Stras things out there,” Rendon said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to watch him for a long time, and to watch him come into his own, especially in the postseason, it’s been amazing.”

Rendon got off to a quick start with an opposite-field, RBI single off Astros right-hander Justin Verlander (0-2) that spotted the Nationals a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.

With two outs in the seventh, Rendon rendered moot the disputed call that ultimately led to Martinez earning an ejection, belting a two-run home run that extended the Nationals’ lead to 5-2. He deposited a pitch from Astros right-hander Will Harris into the Crawford Boxes in left field, saddling Harris with his first run allowed this postseason following nine scoreless innings and 10 scoreless appearances.

Rendon tacked on a two-run double in the ninth.

Postgame, Martinez opted to steer the conversation away from his ejection. He had been tossed when he vehemently protested Trea Turner being ruled out on an interference call for clipping Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel while stretching for the bag. Ultimately, the play mattered little.

“In the heat of the moment, things get blown out of hand,” Martinez said. “I saw things differently. But ... I’m never going to criticize any umpires or anything, because they’re a big part of the game.”

Strasburg (2-0) allowed two runs and three hard-hit balls in the first inning, but he blanked the Astros for the remainder of his outing. He retired nine consecutive batters after Alex Bregman gave the Astros a 2-1 lead with his solo homer in the first.

Strasburg set down the heart of the Astros’ order — Altuve, Michael Brantley and Bregman — on five pitches in the eighth, and he wound up yielding five hits and two walks while striking out seven.

Sean Doolittle came out of the Washington bullpen to get the final two outs and even the series.

The Nationals clawed ahead on a pair of solo homers off Verlander in the fifth. Adam Eaton knotted the score at 2-all with his second home run of the series before Juan Soto delivered Washington the lead for good with his third long ball of the series. Soto’s blast traveled 413 feet into the upper deck in right.

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Verlander labored commanding his secondary pitches throughout, ultimately surrendering three runs on five hits and three walks with a season-low three strikeouts in five innings. He fell to 0-6 with a 5.68 ERA over seven career World Series starts, a smear on his Hall of Fame legacy.

“There’s been some good games mixed in, some not-so-good ones,” Verlander said. “I can’t point a finger at anything in particular. I’m going out there and trying my best. Just wasn’t able to come away with the win.”

—Field Level Media

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